Pride Month Exclusive – In Conversation with Wedding Photographer Monisha Ajgaonkar
The journey to acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community has been a long one; however, with the movement gaining momentum across the globe, the community’s efforts have seen them reaching new milestones. The Pride month brings along fresh opportunities to raise awareness, address diverse stigmas, and let the world know that ‘Love is Love.’ A wedding photographer and activist working for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, Monisha Ajgaonkar of The Photo Diary shares some highlights of her journey and inspirations here.
Your career as a photographer received its first push of motivation by your Nokia 6600. This was followed by some nurturing at the Sir J. J. School of Art before you entered the world of wedding photography and even initiated projects for LGBTQ+ awareness. From then to now, you’ve truly come a long way. How does it feel?
“My Nokia 6600 was an integral part of my college life and seeded my passion for photography. Soon after completing my course at Sir J. J. School of Art, I landed a few good projects at some reputed publications, including The Times of India and Rolling Stone. At the time, I was taking up everything that I could get my hands on since I was exploring various niches. Around the same time, I happened to attend a friend’s wedding where I took my camera long and found that I enjoyed clicking nuptials. Eventually, in 2013, I finally established my own company, The Photo Diary.”
“Fun and quirky shots that give away a relaxed vibe is my team’s signature style, and we make sure that our photographs are out of the ordinary. All of us have been learning a lot every single day. I am fortunate to be able to help others in the community through the work that I do. I have taken up several projects like Love: No Boundaries, Love: Unmasked and so on to raise awareness about the LGBTQ+ community. There are so many people from the community who reach out to me and talk about their struggles. Knowing that my efforts give people the courage they need to embrace and love themselves is possibly the most rewarding feeling.”
Being an advocate for the LGBTQ+ rights in a country that has evolved to a stage of relative acceptance, where do you think the community stands in 2019?
What are the major developments still being awaited?
“The present day scenarios for us are far better than what they were a few years ago. That said, there is still a long way forward. The abolishment of Section 377 was a big milestone and a huge step in changing the perceptions about the community. However, the victory was preceded by a lot of struggle. Today there are rallies and events that have been taking place; people have been making short films for spreading awareness, and several global brands are supporting our rights. The next step in the movement is for same-sex marriages to be legal in India soon, followed by child adoption, and I hope that these come by soon.”
Do you think the current generation is more supportive of the LGBTQ+ community?
“Most certainly. We’ve seen them walk in our support at rallies and speak about our issues at events. They understand that our orientation does not make us criminals or any lesser as human beings. So seeing them raise their voices in our favor is indeed heartwarming.”
Has being a part of the community influenced your career in the wedding industry?
“Absolutely! Early on, I had a lot of clients who backed out because they weren’t comfortable with who I am. However, the wheels of change kept rolling, and eventually, I started meeting people who were more open-minded. Today, I have had a chance to work with couples and families who have been very supportive, and most of them give me so much love. They want to know about my life and my story, and I am so grateful for the kind of warmth I receive.
Since 2019 marks 50 years of pride history, will you be covering/hosting any event(s) to commemorate this milestone?
“Yes… This year I’ve had the honor to be a part of the campaigns like #ShowUs by Dove and Getty Images’ ‘Girl Gaze’ which was shot by Bhumika Bhatia where I am representing India as a woman of the new generation as I am a part of the LGBTQ+ Community. It feels amazing to know that this campaign that gives a message of us being equal to all has gone global. I hope more such projects will come my way soon.”
What does ‘Love is Love’ mean to you?
“It means to be honest, loyal, and without expectations, regardless of gender, caste, or any other societal boundaries.”
Is there a message you’d like to send out to the people of this industry about how they foster greater acceptance and positive change?
“It’s okay not to come out if you are scared or if you feel that it could be unsafe for you. However, don’t lose hope because the world is changing, and we are beginning to be accepted for who we are. A lot of countries are accepting same-sex marriages, and hopefully, India will soon be one of them.”